This time it's a pat on the back, not a poke in the side.
Over the years in this column, every now and then I have taken great pleasure in poking fun at our friendly little neighbor to the west, North Dakota.
How could a Minnesota columnist resist? We have more than 10,000 lakes on which to frolic and make memories, and North Dakota has more than 10,000 trailers home to who knows how many thousands of oil-field workers who can’t find a place to live that isn’t on wheels. We have big cities, metropolitan areas and a population in the millions, which means we're considered significant enough to be home to professional teams in the four sports considered "major." North Dakota has the Bison and the soon not to be Fighting Sioux. Word has it the state's efforts to land a Lingerie Football League team in Minot have fizzled.
OK, enough already. After all, there are plenty of Minnesotans who are downright jealous of North Dakota all its newfound oil wealth, largely made possible by the practice of "fracking," which will, way more than the likelihood of God returning to render judgment on the human race as part of the "rapture" anytime soon, likely lead to earth's demise in a few hundred short years. Can't get to those millions and billions of barrels of oil that were once safely tucked miles and miles below the earth's surface? Well, let's just use countless amounts of sand and water and bust stuff up down there! What harm could that possibly do?
Cue the banjos...it's the "Badlands Hillbillies!"
Why is it that I can't resist this incessant teasing? I mean, I like North Dakota. Grand Forks and Fargo are great places to spend money on food, fun and expensive clothes for the little ones. (The Toasted Frog and Little Bangkok? Both dynamite.) And there's nothing better than hitting a golf ball into a 30 mile per hour wind on a nice, calm day at Kings Walk in Grand Forks.
I've spent a couple weeks in Devils Lake, too, for youth hockey tournaments, and if there's a better Pizza Hut on the planet, I've never set foot in it.
As for the rest of the state, admittedly, I don't think I've actually experienced it. I landed in Bismarck once, on my way to Las Vegas, but never exited the plane. Through my window, I think I saw a nice snack food vending machine in the Bismarck terminal. I've seen other parts of the state from around 30,000 feet up during flights to Seattle. I must say, the state looks great from six miles high.
I would love to head to North Dakota's treasure, the gorgeous scenery in Theodore Roosevelt National Park – you know, before everything's ruined by the state's ravenous appetite for oil – and golf at Bully Pulpit. But I'd want to avoid a package deal if it meant I had to see the Medora Musical.
Am I in a mood or what? Here I was going to write a column about how proud I am today to be North Dakota's neighbor to the east, after North Dakota voters on their Election Day, June 12, soundly rejected three unwise initiatives.
In one day, North Dakota, a state that typically leans to the right politically, shot down a measure to amend the state's constitution to supposedly guarantee more religious freedom – something the U.S. Constitution already covers – and also denied an attempt to do away with property taxes and rely solely on the state for funding of local services and projects. North Dakota voters also, finally, cleared the way for the University of North Dakota to once and for all retire the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.
Way to go, North Dakotans! Seriously.
But it's not all good, sadly. North Dakota Republicans still somehow felt it was best to pony up Kevin Cramer for his 33rd attempt at a Congressional office, over the party's endorsed candidate, even.
Oh, well...this is a time for patting on the back, not poking in the side, and North Dakota voters sent an unmistakable message to the powers-that-be on June 12: Don't waste our time with silly measures and amendments when we have more important things to do. Just exactly what those things are, well, they'll think of something.